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Pierre-Gabriel BUFFARDIN (1693 - 1768): "Sonates & Concerto"

Le Petit Trianon

rec: Nov 27 - 30, 2020, Saint-Ursanne (CH), Collégiale Saint-Ursanne
Ricercar - RIC 428 (© 2021) (75'48")
Liner-notes: E/D/F
Cover, track-list & booklet

Concerto in e minor; Sonate I in g minor; Sonate II in D; Sonate III in G; Sonate IV in e minor (arr by Le Petit Trianon); Sonate V in A (arr by Le Petit Trianon); Sonate VI in b minor

Olivier Reihl, transverse flute; Amandine Solano, Vanessa Monteventi, violin; Jeanne Mathieu, viola; Cyril Poulet, cello; Xavier Marquis, bassoon; Sarah Van Oudenhove, violone; Jean-Luc Ho, harpsichord

During the first half of the 18th century, the court orchestra in Dresden was one of the best of its kind in Europe. It had some highly-skilled players in its ranks, who came from across Europe. Among them were the concertmaster Johann Georg Pisendel and the lutenist Silvius Leopold Weiss. Pierre-Gabriel Buffardin was the star flautist of the ensemble. He was one of its best paid members; in 1741 he earned 1,000 thalers.

Little is known about his formative years. He was born in Toulon as the son of Jean Joseph Buffardin, who was active as an instrument maker. Later in life, Pierre-Gabriel also seems to have been active as such. It is assumed that he learned to play the transverse flute, and probably also the recorder and the oboe, from his father. Louis Antoine Dornel wrote a suite, which includes a movement with the title La B***d**. This may refer to Buffardin, which would be an indication that Dornel knew him, and this suggests that Buffardin may have been in Paris at some stage in his career.

Buffardin was an acquaintance of the Bach family. He visited Johann Sebastian in Leipzig in 1724, and he was the teacher of Johann Jacob, Sebastian's brother, who was in the service of the Swedish army and in this capacity spent some time in Constantinople, where Buffardin also stayed, probably being in the service of the French chargé d'affaires François Belin in 1711. During his time in Dresden, where he was organist of the Sophienkirche, Wilhelm Friedemann Bach is also likely to have met him and performed with him.

In November 1715 Buffardin was appointed principal flautist in the court chapel in Dresden. As other members of the chapel, he often performed elsewhere, for instance in Munich. In 1726 he performed at the Concert Spirituel in Paris, and again in 1737. In 1749 he retired as flautist of the Dresden chapel and settled in Paris. He gave his final concert in Versailles in 1750. He died in Paris in 1768.

Like many star performers of his time, such as the above-mentioned Pisendel and Weiss, Buffardin also wrote music for his own instrument. According to New Grove, only one concerto and one trio sonata have survived. However, the present disc includes six sonatas for flute and basso continuo. The liner-notes are not entirely clear on this subject, but it seems that they are not so much a recent discovery, as rather the result of the identification of Buffardin as the composer of a set of sonatas that is preserved in the Brussels Conservatory. They are anonymous, but attibuted to Mr. B***. They were first published in 1737. Whether they are identical with a set of sonatas printed by Leclerc in 1742 is impossible to say, as these have been lost. It is also mentioned that two other sonatas have been preserved as well as a set of variations.

Five of the six sonatas are in four movements in the then common order; the Sonata III comprises five movements and closes with two allegros. These sonatas are substantial additions to the flute repertoire. They are technically challenging for any player, but also include some variety. There is quite some expression in the slow movements, and lots of energy in the fast ones. The first allegro of the Sonata III is a good example, as is the closing movement of the Sonata V. The latter is one of two which the ensemble arranged for flute and additional instruments, "a concertante version with added instrumental lines", as Olivier Riehl writes in his notes in the booklet. I don't see any particular reason for it, but it is very well done.

I have nothing but praise for these performances. I was impressed by the ensemble's previous discs, devoted to Boismortier and Devienne respectively. This is another very fine recording. Riehl is an excellent player, who performs these pieces with great sensitivity and stylistic understanding. The cooperation with his colleagues is immaculate. I like in particular the contributions of Xavier Marquis on the bassoon.

Johan van Veen (© 2021)

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